IRVING — An elderly Irving couple is hospitalized — one of them clinging to life — following yet another natural gas explosion in North Texas.
The blast ripped through their home early Sunday morning. It has all the earmarks of a tragedy that has repeatedly injured and killed North Texans over the past 30 years.
Relatives say Joseph and Peggy Manthiey never smelled a thing before being blown out of bed early Sunday morning.
Kyla Kirby and Jake Westerman raced across the street and found the house in flames and the Manthieys burned and in shock in their front yard. They said Mr. Manthiey was burned the worst.
"The explosion had blown him out of the house into the back yard," Kirby said. "He was so burned, he was like — his flesh was off."
Atmos Energy crews have since discovered probable culprit, a major leak on a service line across the street from the Manthiey's home.
While that leak has been repaired, crews are still working up and down the block finding more.
Neighbor Kayla Rice said Atmos Energy crews found a leak in her front yard. "It bothers me that they won't give me any information and tell us anything," she complained. "They are in our front yard working all day long, but they won't say anything."
Atmos Energy declined an on-camera interview with WFAA, but issued this written statement:
"Safety is our number one priority. We have checked out the area to make sure it is safe and are working with the city and state to investigate the cause."
It's similar to the statement Atmos issued after a house explosion in Mesquite last November. Kristi Samons was at home at the time and survived the gas explosion, which Atmos first blamed on carbon monoxide.
The official preliminary cause of that blast was judged to be a leaking compression coupling on the Atmos gas line. For days afterward, gas leaks were discovered all over the Mesquite neighborhood.
Much like the situation in Mesquite just a couple of months ago, Atmos crews are finding more leaks in the Irving neighborhood surrounding Sunday's blast.
In May of last year, less than a mile away from Sunday's explosion in Irving, another house exploded. Again, it is being blamed on a leaking compression coupling on an Atmos gas line.
In Cleburne in 2007, two people died in a house explosion, which again, was blamed on a leaking compression coupling.
In Wylie in 2006, there was another house explosion. Two people died and again, a leaking compression coupling was blamed.
Following a WFAA investigation, the Texas Railroad Commission ordered the removal of faulty couplings attached to gas meters. But there are an estimated three million other compression couplings still in the ground that may be prone to leaks.
State Rep. Robert Miklos (D-Mesquite) says the time has come for Railroad Commissioners to order the rest of the dangerous couplings removed.
"We can't say that five, ten, fifteen people a year blowing up in their homes is somehow the cost of doing business," Miklos said. "The government's role is to ensure the safety of its citizens."
Rep. Miklos says he will file a request for a special legislative hearing on the explosions, calling for the Texas Railroad Commission to answer questions about what more can be done to keep this from happening again.